Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dissection, Spilled Paint and a Trebuchet

On My Mind ~ What a week! We were blessed with getting a good rest break while Goldilocks "worked on her life" in respite care last weekend. Upon her return, we started a new, much stricter routine. The kitchen/dining room is our "hub" and she is expected to be there with me most of the time. She now has her own desk for school (or for times that I do not need to keep line of sight) and periods of rest in her room. We placed a keyed lock on Tom Sawyer's door so that she can't barge into his room anymore. That was one of his biggest concerns. There will be locks going on the laundry room doors this weekend. She also has very short play times with her siblings (10 to 15 minutes at a time) and limited play time with pets. She freaked out about the changes which resulted in Monday and Tuesday being filled with challenges. However, I was rested and ready. I've been down this road with her before. Because of the high level of structure and her siblings being rested and prepared, even the rough days this week went well. By Wednesday, she seemed to have decided that she wasn't going to get me riled up so it was best to just comply.

Another Easter Egg Hunt ~ I took Little Red Riding Hood to an Easter egg hunt at a historic house in the area. It was a rainy day, but she enjoyed the Easter sing along and story time. They then found eggs hidden in the hallways of the house. My kids are growing up. Only Little Red Riding Hood wanted to go.

A Trebuchet ~ What happens when you send your husband and son to an educational toy store with a GREAT coupon and suggest they get something science based? They went out while I ran errands.

They had the trebuchet built before I even got home. This thing has provided so many hours of fun this week. They have shot hundreds of plastic eggs at every imaginable block building.

A Poetry Tea ~ We had a poetry tea for Robert Frost's birthday. It was a delightful time of reading poems over breakfast. If you would like to view the entire post, go here.

Dissection ~ There are graphic pictures below of our dissections this week. If this bothers you, just skip it by scrolling down. I promised Tom Sawyer that we would dissect four creatures this year. We did a cow's eye at the beginning of the year. Today we did the remaining three. We dissected a frog, freshwater clam, and a freshwater perch. The frog was the most interesting and held the kids' attention very well. The perch smelled the worst and was difficult to find all of the organs. Tom Sawyer lost interest during this one. Little Red Riding Hood really liked removing the scales. The clam was easier to get into than I expected it to be. It was hard to figure out all of the parts. However, we found it interesting as well.

 frog tongue

Gross, it leaked!

Freshwater Perch
Little Red Riding Hood loves science!

Freshwater clam

Goldilocks did do some of the dissections. She preferred to be behind the camera as much as possible, so there are no pictures of her.

When life gives you lemons... Goldilocks stood on a can of paint in the kitchen this week. It tipped over and spilled all over the floor. I was very proud of myself for staying calm. I just got out a brush and started painting the rest of the kitchen cabinet doors...with the paint from the floor. It is a bit unorthodox to use spilled paint for a project, but I am living through an unorthodox life. I kept muttering about how when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I think the kids were a bit perplexed with the situation. They all sat around the computer watching an education film and peeking over the counter at me.

All the Rest ~ We started a short unit study on Picasso this week. I will have pictures and more to tell next week. The dissections completed our Five in a Row unit study on Night of the Moonjellies. I hope to have a blog post up about that this weekend. We also did lots of math and language arts this week. We are also listening to Royal Diaries Anastasia in the car. I like this series so far. Tom Sawyer is enjoying Ragweed by Avi. I always like Avi books and was glad to find one age appropriate for Tom Sawyer. The librarian showed me several books by Avi that were fun and lighter than his books geared toward middle school and older kids. I think I will be able to keep Tom Sawyer in chapter books for a few weeks. Well, that is all for this week ~ more than enough!

Blessings, Dawn

Homegrown Learners

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Poetry Tea ~ Robert Frost

We celebrated Robert Frost's birthday this week with a poetry tea in his honor. We held our poetry tea at breakfast time with homemade potato pancakes, apples, cheese, nuts, raisins, and berries with cream. We also had two kinds of tea.

We concentrated on four poems for this tea -- A Girl's Garden, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, Mending Wall, and The Road Not Taken. I read each poem to the children. Well, actually, I sang  A Girl's Garden to them since I remembered performing it in high school. Then we listened to some lovely readings of the poems on YouTube.
  • A Girl's Garden The kids were impressed that I still remembered all the phrasing as well as the tune of this song since I sang it so VERY LONG AGO. After all, I graduated from high school back in the Stone Age. LOL
  • Stopping By Woods... This one is great to listen to with your eyes closed and write down all the sounds you here ~ sleet, snow, horse hooves....
  • Road Not Taken We listened to two readings of  this poem. I like this one for the reading and this one for the photography.
We then completed a little lap book.

Blessings, Dawn

    Saturday, March 23, 2013

    Week 27 ~ Eggs, Awards, End of Quarter

    On My Mind ~ Goldilocks ~ This was the last week of our third quarter. This week is built in to be either a catch up week or a review week. This quarter it was a catch up week. I will talk about all we did below. I am also thinking and researching options for next year. I spoke in the blog entry before this one about changes coming for Goldilocks. She is struggling so much with her studies. In addition, she is becoming more and more disruptive to her siblings' studies and challenging me all day long. A part of me just wants to send her to school. I even called one of the local private schools that has a special education program and asked for a tour and about scholarships. I regretted that phone call almost immediately! I really don't think school is the answer. School for a child like Goldilocks opens up a whole new can of worms. RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) children tend to triangulate the adults in their lives and create huge amounts of chaos. It is extremely important that the adults on her "team" understand her issues (really understand) and work together to create "a steel box with velvet lining". This means a very structured environment where there is little wiggle room for the child to feel unsafe and thus feel the need to create trouble. It also means an environment where the child is being nurtured even when they are causing trouble. Goldilocks rarely feels truly safe because trust and receiving/giving love is so hard for her. So for now, I am looking at private tutoring, a homeschool co-op, and placing her in respite care much more often. We will be spending the majority of our homeschool budget on Goldilocks next year. I have a lot on hand already for the other children and will make do where we are lacking. We must get Goldilocks back on the academic and behavioral road. In addition, Goldilock's doctors are filling our paperwork and trying to get her funding to receive more respite care with a specialist in attachment therapy. Goldilocks has worked with this wonderful respite care provider since she was about 4 years old, but in recent years there has been very little funding so she has had just a few hours a month of contact. This will hopefully be changing in the very near future. I am also looking for a new attachment therapist. She has not had therapy in several years.

    Festival of Knowledge ~ The kids spent the better part of the week finishing their Festival of Knowledge projects. I love having them do a project like this every year. They learn and use so many skills.

    Skills they used  this week ~
    • typing
    • research
    • creating sentences
    • layout of a topic on their boards
    • sewing
    • painting
    • working with clay
    • reading
    • making an outline
    • writing complete paragraphs
    • public speaking
    • being graceful while receiving public recognition and criticism
    Unfortunately, there was a very small turn out at the Festival this year. I think it was the smallest turn out in the last 10 years. Consequently, all of the participants earned ribbons and certificates. Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Sawyer did a great job with their interviews.
      Early Easter Fun With Friends ~ We invited another family over to decorate eggs and do a backyard Easter egg hunt. The kids dyed 3 dozen eggs. They came out with especially rich colors this year. We will be eating loads of deviled eggs this week. They also hunted for 100 coin and pom-pom filled eggs in the back yard. What a fun event!

      In the World of Workbooks ~ While kids were waiting for me to get to them and their projects, they did workbook pages. We finished several workbooks this week.
      • Goldilocks finished a 2nd grade drill math workbook and an Explode the Code workbook.
      • Little Red Riding Hood finished an Explode the Code workbook and moved to the next one. She also finished a 300+ Dot to Dot workbook and a Crossword Puzzle workbook.
      • Tom Sawyer finished a following directions workbook and a multiplication drill math book.
      Testing ~
      Goldilocks finished the lowest level of the 5th grade Hewitt Pass Test. She took the test with my mother. I look forward to seeing her test results. Little Red Riding Hood got her test results back in the mail this week. She did very well with an NPR (National Percentile Rank) of 98% in Reading, 59% in Language and 93% in Math. We are so proud of her. Tom Sawyer did really well on the test as well.  His NPR was 78% Reading, 66% Language and 45% Math. I am surprised that he came in a bit low in math. However, he did really well overall.

      All the Rest ~ We are enjoying a calm weekend. Goldilocks is spending the entire weekend with her attachment respite care provider. This is such a huge blessing to our family. I was so tired of being "ON DUTY" every minute and keeping constant line of sight. About an hour after dropping her off yesterday, my body just relaxed and I almost fell asleep over dinner! I am just that emotionally tired right now. Her siblings are being very vocal about how they are loving the calm and quiet. They also appreciate this all important respite. I pray that we can get more rest for our family in the coming months and get Goldilocks back on the path to success.

      Blessings, Dawn

      Monday, March 18, 2013

      Thoughts for the Last 10 Weeks of School

      When I wrote this post last August, I had no idea we would be moving to a new home and that our oldest son would need pacemaker surgery this school year. These two events changed our school year a bit. I am surprised to see how much we did pull off in the first 26 weeks of school. After reviewing our goals from August and looking at where we are lacking, I have written our goals for our last 10 weeks of school. 

      Science is the subject we fell the most behind in during this year. I promised Tom Sawyer we would do four dissections this year. However, we've only done one, a cow's eye. To keep my promise, I need to do three more dissections in the next 10 weeks. We will be dissecting a perch, clam and frog (the frog once again by popular request). We also will be working our way through Biology ~ Real Science 4 Kids. This is the elementary version and it has only 10 chapters. We will be skipping the ninth chapter because we already did butterflies. Since my kids already have a fairly good grasp of beginning biology, the book will be easy to finish in one quarter. (Tom Sawyer will probably read the textbook in a few days, knowing him and his love of science.) We will also be growing a tadpole into a frog. Lastly, we will be doing a unit study on George Washington Carver from Beyond Five In A Row. I will postpone our unit studies on Helen Keller and Thomas Edison for next year.

      Geography was pretty much a total failure around here this year. We looked places up on maps as we came to them in our literature books, but otherwise, I did not get to any of our planned unit studies. We also did not do much with our book about the 50 states. I am not going to try to fix this in the next 10 weeks. We will pick it back up with geography next year.

      We are doing well in literature. We read the 12 books in the sidebar of my blog and did unit studies with some of them. We still plan on covering The Little Town on the Prairie, The Secret Garden, Patty Reed's Doll ~ The Story of the Donner Party, and George Carver Boy Scientist. All of these are unit studies. We will be doing two more poetry teas.

      Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood are doing great with Teaching Textbooks. Little Red Riding Hood is now working above grade level! They will continue on for the rest of the year. Goldilocks is doing very poorly in math. I am still searching for what will unlock her math abilities. She is not experiencing success with Teaching Textbooks and has not experienced success with any of the four previous curriculum choices we have tried. I am considering a private tutor for her.

      We have done well on history this year. Our goals were not that lofty to begin with, but we are up to date with the plan. We were even able to add a few extras like the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Donner Party's rescue in 1847. We will be wrapping up loose ends and be ready to start full force with the 1900's next year.

      So far this school year, we have studied three musicals. We did State Fair, My Fair Lady and White Christmas. We will finish off with Fiddler on the Roof. We also are up to date on our musician studies but will be leaving out the last one I had planned ~ Scott Joplin. We will be getting plenty of music in the next few weeks with all of the rehearsals for Swan Lake. The kids also completed their performance in The Nutcracker this past winter. In addition to Swan Lake, the girls will be doing a performance with their aerial arts class. Each girl has a solo with choreography each created. This should be an exciting challenge for them.

      We have completed our studies of Matisse and N. C. Wyeth. We will be doing Picasso in our last quarter. Frank Lloyd Wright will be postponed for next year.

      Language Arts
      We had a good year in language arts. I have seen an improvement in all of the children's writing this year. We will continue working our way through workbooks and writing daily in our journals for the rest of the year.

      One of the most important goals for the kids this year was to do something that received public recognition and criticism each quarter. The first quarter they made shoe box floats which were judged in the state fair. They performed in The Nutcracker during the second quarter. The third quarter will end  next week. Just before it ends, however, they will participate in the Festival of Knowledge (which is like a science fair that our nature center hosts). They are doing projects entitled Turkey Vultures, Gold in North Carolina and Opossums. The last quarter they will perform in Swan Lake with our dance studio.

      Changes for Goldilocks
      I have decided to make some drastic changes to Goldilocks' learning environment, effective immediately. She is doing so poorly in her academic work and really does not seem to care. I truly do understand learning challenges. However, her attitude is unacceptable. So from this day forward she will be spending a large part of her free time doing drill work in math. As she finishes workbooks with 95% accuracy, she will earn 1 to 2 hours of media. I have struggled for years with how much to expect from her. However, no doctor has told me that she is unable to learn (as I've been told about my son Tim from his birth -- although his desire to succeed has continually shocked doctors when he makes progress) or that she is retarded. In fact, her doctors always seem surprised at her poor progress. So I need to assume that much of her issue is lack of desire and motivation. What happens to her over the summer and next year will depend on what progress I see in the next 10 weeks. I am considering a tutor for her instead of dance next year (since I can't afford both) and sending her to a homeschooling friend's house or an academic minded co-op. She needs a wake-up call. Once the attitude has been stripped away, I may be able to help her get somewhere.

      Blessings, Dawn

      Thursday, March 14, 2013

      Atlanta ~ Take Two ~ Georgia Aquarium

      Last summer we took our first day trip to Atlanta. You can read about it here. We were delighted to discover that the kids were old enough to make the 7 hour round trip. It makes for a very long day but cuts down dramatically on the cost since we do not have to pay for a hotel. So since my stepmother was in town, we decided to take a trip to the Georgia Aquarium and the Underground in Atlanta.

      Aquarium ~ We arrived at the aquarium at 11:45 am. We ate at Wendy's before arriving. Once inside, we let the kids take turns deciding which gallery to go through first. We were all mesmerized by the GIANT tanks teaming with sea life and Whale Sharks!  They were so big and graceful. The sea tunnel was impressive.

      This aquarium has several touch pools. The kids were able to touch stingrays, sea urchins, starfish, sea anemones and sea snails. I appreciated how they gave the sea creatures 15 minute breaks from being touched.

      We loved visiting the jellies in the tropical area. We have been learning about Moon Jellies and it was delightful to see them. 

      There were so many nooks and crannies for the kids to crawl in and see the sea life from different perspectives.

      The dolphin show was kind of cheesy, but the kids loved seeing the dolphins.  I will speak about it more in my reflections section.  I think every one's favorite display was the Belugas.  They were so playful. We were all held captive with amazement!

      We had such a wonderful experience at this huge aquarium.

      Reflections ~ The food was very expensive. Just purchasing a snack and drinks cost about $46. If you have sensory kids, the dolphin show is overwhelming. There are lots of bright lights, loud noises, and visual stimulation. Tom Sawyer did well with it, but in years past, it would have been a nightmare for him. I would suggest sitting as far back as possible and having earplugs and a comfort toy handy. Visiting the galleries right outside the exit from the dolphin show proved to be very crowded when the show let out. So it would be wise to do those when a show is in progress. 

      We left the aquarium right around 5:00 pm and headed for the Underground. We wanted to see what it looked like and take in a little bit of Atlanta history.  It was smaller than we expected and very commercialized. We ate at Johnny Rockets where Tom Sawyer was able to eat the cheeseburgers (without bread) and the French fries. It was not the healthiest place to eat, but it was cheaper and the kids loved the jukebox.

      We got home at around 10:30 pm. I am happy that we were able to enjoy another successful trip.

      Blessings, Dawn

      Friday Wrap-Up ~ Spring Break

      We took our Spring Break a bit early because my stepmother is in town this week. I did have the kids do math most days and a little bit of work towards their big research projects which are due next week.  However, for the most part we enjoyed a break. We went on several field trips around town and out of town.

      Gourmet Chips ~ We went on a field trip to a place in town that makes a large variety of homemade chips. This is such a wonderful discovery for Tom Sawyer because there is no corn used in any of their chips. He has not been able to have any kind of potato chip other than plain Cape Cod for the last two years. How exciting to taste a variety of flavors. They make them fresh right in front of you. We tried vinegar and salt, chocolate glazed potato chips, and Southern barbecue.

      Tea House ~ We also took Grandma Sue to the Tea House we found a few months ago. It was fun to order all different kinds of tea and gluten-free treats! We enjoyed Plum Tea, Eastern Winds Tea, Nettle Tea and Boston Tea Party Tea. We also ate buckwheat fig rolls, lavender cake, olives and dried fruit. I love the sign below with the word tea written in many different languages.

      Grandma Sue's Birthday ~ We celebrated Grandma Sue's birthday this week with a homemade lasagna and cupcakes. We let Tom Sawyer have a cheat, and he LOVED his slice of lasagna. My husband got a bit goofy with the party hats.

      Georgia Aquarium ~ We went on an amazing trip to the Georgia Aquarium this week. It is a very pricey place, but well worth the money. If you would like full details on how we do long distance day trips and how much we enjoyed the aquarium, go here. The short story is that we LOVED the aquarium.  The Whale Sharks and Beluga whales were amazing. We also totally enjoyed the Moon jellies! We are big fans of zoos and aquariums that are well maintained with happy animals. This aquarium seemed especially well maintained. All of the sea creatures had lots of space and were busy playing. In many of the galleries, we were surrounded on all sides by fish. It was awesome.

      What a great week!

      Homegrown Learners

      Blessings, Dawn

      Thursday, March 7, 2013

      Week 26 ~ Snow, Gold and Dr. Seuss

      On My Mind ~ I have been thinking about the power of words lately. The words a person uses can cause great change, pain, kindness or silliness. It takes a lot of maturity and self control to be responsible with one's words. This can be very challenging for children (and grown-ups). I am finding that controlling one's words for my RAD/FASD child seems to be nearly impossible. This child of mine is always stirring up chaos and much of it is with the words she chooses to use. So, I am making a few changes around here. It is a privilege to speak and speaking is for those who are ready to be responsible with their words. This week we are practicing having periods of quiet. I am also requiring any of my children who are not using their words to enhance the conversation or lift someone else up to experience a period of silence. They understand that, for every word they speak during silent time, they will lose a dime from their allowance. I am hoping this will teach the importance of using our words wisely and responsibly.

      Dr. Seuss' Birthday ~ We had a fun dinner party for Dr. Seuss. We had root beer floats with naturally colored pink whip cream, Biggle Balls (cheese balls), pickled carrots, and potato soup. I found all of the recipes in the Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook. We also read a nice biography about Dr. Seuss. It was a fun evening.

      Our Field Trip ~  This week, we took a field trip to a defunct gold mine a few hours away from our home. It was a long trip! Little Red Riding Hood is doing her project for the Festival of Knowledge (a science/history fair that is held at our local nature center each year) on Discovery of Gold in North Carolina. It is fascinating learning that the very first gold found in America was here in North Carolina in 1799. Did you know the only state where gold has never been found is Florida? She gathered lots of info, including a little bottle of real pressed gold. The gold was pressed so thin that it looks like a nice amount but is really just tiny bits of gold dust. The kids enjoyed walking through the gold mine.

      imagine this being your only source of light in a huge underground mine

      Testing ~  We spent two days of the week testing Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Sawyer. I think they both did a good job. We will see what the test results are in a few weeks. I will test Goldilocks in the next week.

      Our School Week ~  Between testing, a snow day and our field trip we did not get that much "school" done this week. We did start our next FIAR book ~ Night of the Moonjellies. We will do much more on this book over the next few days, and I will talk about it next week. We also completed two more chapter audiobooks in the car ~ Bud Not Buddy and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Both of these books are wonderful and deal with big feelings, including love, trust, hope, resilience, bravery, faith and compassion. We also did math, lots of puzzles and watched the musical, My Fair Lady.

      All the Rest ~ It took until March, but we finally got snow!!! We got about 1.5 inches. Not much, but we will take what we can get. We have learned that snow doesn't last long here in North Carolina and got out early. It was gone by the end of the day.

      Do you see Boomer in the background? He thinks you have to run very fast all the time on snow.

      I am joining ~

      Homegrown Learners

      Blessings, Dawn